How commercial is celebrating Valentine’s Day in Damascus?

Celebrating Valentine’s Day in Damascus:

For Syrians, who like other nations aren’t safe from the hands of commercialism, the rituals of valentine start a month before Feb the 14th

 By Hamzeh Abu-Fakher

Staff Writer, Forward Magazine

It’s February and stores, restaurants and cafes are tearing down what’s left of their Christmas decorations and adorning their spaces in this month’s highlight festivity, symbols that suggest displays of love and affection for Valentine’s Day. Red ribbons, red hearts, cupids and flashing red lights alarm lovers Valentine’s Day is drawing nigh.

 In Damascus, those embarrassing soft toy hearts with smiley faces, arms and legs, ceramic hearts on springs and even steaks wrapped in ribbon and festooned in hearts are excused. Thinking about all this, people may wonder: What is Valentine?

Everybody knows it’s “Lover’s Day” named after the martyr Saint Valentine; but what significance does it hold? It can’t be actually categorized as a holiday, you still go to work on that day, yet people and businesses prepare weeks in advance for it, just forgetting it the next day.

Valentine’s Day means different things for different couples. For some it means candlelit dinners, long-stemmed roses and flower-scented bubble baths in heart-shaped Jacuzzis in countryside bed and breakfast hotels. For others it’s an excuse to drop thousands of liras at a restaurant you’ve both been dying to try all year but haven’t found the room for in your budget. Fanciful or practical, whether you subscribe to the ”Valentine’s Day is an invented holiday” school of thought or not, this special day is a chance to celebrate your relationship – old or young, long term or just getting started.

The 14th day of the second month marks a day in which lovers forget their disputes and shower each other with gifts; flowers, valentine cards, teddy bears, and sweets. Not preparing in advance for this occasion is blasphemous, especially if you are a guy! Many women consider Valentines a test of their partners love and commitment.

Valentines is the only day of the year when all couples are required to be happy in love. For singles however, the day and night can be rather depressing, but nothing a soppy DVD and tub of ice cream and crisps can’t fix. Although, statistics show that teen suicide rates hike around Valentine’s Day!

Commercially, after Christmas and New Year, Valentine is the next most profitable holiday globally. Handwritten love notes have been replaced with mass produced greeting cards, and in the USA, the Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion Valentine greeting cards are sent each year worldwide. Not forgetting credit cards bills, which are the new means of expressing love. The fatter the bill, the hotter the night’s reward.

For Syrians, who also aren’t safe from the hands of commercialism, the rituals of valentine start a month before Feb the 14th. Guys start calling their friends to ask for money; No “man” wants to be caught penniless in front of their girl friends on Valentine’s. Restaurants start preparations with decorations and special offers “For Families Only,” “No single men allowed.” 50 liras red roses magically gain an extra zero, turning to 500 liras. And finally, cell phone companies start spamming their customers with bulk messages, such as: “Send a message to #### with your partner’s name to join the ‘Lover’s Day competition’ or to ‘test your compatibility.’”

Perhaps being in love does improve the economy! Some say that “Love makes the World go around,” while others say “Money makes the World go around,” using simple mathematical logic, love = money!

Like with all special occasions, I think Valentine’s Day has lost some of its enchantment because it has been abused by those considering it a commercial opportunity. However, this day, if handled correctly and planned well, could prove to be an incredibly romantic day allowing you a chance to treat your significant other, and demonstrate how much you love her/him.

A home cooked dinner lit by candles, scents of aromatics and a massage could prove to be the sweetest and most romantic gift a lover could offer. No need to go buy all the red scrap that replaced the New Year’s and X-mass’ junk. Valentine is a special day for a couple to celebrate their love, alone, not with the whole world in restaurants like some love concentration camp.

It all depends on how you view it, you can either think that a rose is a dead flower, or a symbol of undying love. The same way this day could either be another commercialized occasion, or a romantic opportunity for lovebirds to get together and exchange words and actions about how they feel for one another. And in the end, if couples are happy together, everyday can be Valentine’s Day, while Valentine could be an even more extraordinary day.

Fun fact: In Saudi Arabia, in 2002 and 2008, religious police banned the sale of all Valentine’s Day items, telling shop workers to remove any red items, as the day is considered a non-Islamic holiday. In 2008, this ban created a black market of roses and wrapping paper.

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3 Responses

  1. Good day
    There is no need to say how clever and thoughtful of you to make these comments but there is a major point you are totally forgetting about It’s LOVE my Dear. Since we are people who are incapable of love or to be fair incapable of dealing with love. Love is something we are afraid of, terrified and let me dare and say ashamed of. And yet, it is something we grave to find, feel and sense. Something we are hungry for but we can’t deal with it (maybe as some think it’s not manly enough to express weakness, since love is nothing but surrender). Love for us is exotic.
    Remember in the past days when European people were fascinated by the Arabian nights (Shahrazad and Shahraiar) they thought the east is the land of pleasure, a place where you can find whatever you desire for (rivers of milk and honey, beautiful girls all around you and all you need to do is to pick as much as you want). The east was something exotic for them just as love is something exotic for us. So, when you have something exotic you can mix it with the most brutal thing in the word and still taste so sweet, It’s something to num our mind and sense of reason .But for you It Did Not .

  2. Thanks a lotI really liked reading this. It makes me want to create my own weblog! Just what topic though? I am a dentist by trade but can’t imagine many people wanting to read about dentistry? Maybe I am wrong! Annie B

  3. Good day Mrs. Hamzeh
    Sorry the above material is meant to be to the dear Mrs. Saoud
    I’d like to start by a phrase which got my attention (especially if you are a guy! Many women consider Valentines a test of their Partners love and commitment)
    Simple Q Do you think women to be some kind of idiots to base a whole relationship on this only day????!!!!!!!!
    You really don’t have to answer that, I’ve read the rest of ur essay and there were beautiful things in it. But I think you should be more careful when it comes to women. Some people are capable of reading between the lines…………
    Well let me tell you something I think we deserve a single day in the year when you guys treat us well all the day long. To be clearer, a day you are capable of expressing love in it BUT it seems this thing is too much to ask for. So, the only way you can think of to show love and affection is by showering us (women) with all kind of gift. Guys are following the easiest ways to say” hay, look I love you, what more are you asking for, I work 12 hours a day , I’m putting food in the table so you keep your mouth shot and embrace what you have ”
    Second I think it’s perfectly fine for commercial to benefit from this day, they don’t spare a thing so why this day. As long as you have a choice no harm will be done , unless we are some kind of an idiot (LAW Does not protect fools) no one is imposing anything on you. It’ not like EID. In EID you are obliged to buy things for ur kids and for ur home.

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